It’s no secret that going to therapy is easily one of the best things you can do for your mental health. So when it comes to managing conditions like depression or anxiety, therapy can be a central resource in your recovery. But as a guy, it’s not easy to reach out and admit you need help. Oftentimes, it can feel like an admission of failure, or that you’re weak or unstable.
But that’s simply not true. This article breaks down what holds men back from seeking therapy, what to look for in a therapist, and a few therapeutic approaches that can benefit men.
How stereotypes affect mental health
“Real men solve their own problems” is just another stereotypical belief that results in men feeling ashamed about going to therapy. Many guys don’t like admitting the struggles they’re facing because they want the one people can lean on. According to a 2017 study, conforming to these masculine norms negatively impacts mental health and reduces the frequency of getting psychological help.
These myths about mental health and men — such as being depressed make you a burden, for example, or that it’s cowardly to ask for help — can profoundly instill in your identity that you may not even recognize them.
What’s holding men back?
Factors that prevent men from going to therapy vary, but most surround the idea that you “should” be on top of whatever you’re feeling. So until there’s a crisis, it’s less likely for men to go.
Researchshows men may be concerned about privacy and sometimes need more reassurance that therapy won’t affect their image, title, or position. Our culture has conditioned us to ask for help or admit that we have a problem as a weakness. However, men bear the brunt of this harmful stigma and, as such, are far less likely to seek mental health treatment.
On the other hand, mental health conditions are experienced differently in men than in women. For example, if you’re experiencing depression, you may feel more angry or irritable than withdrawn, isolated, or down.
While you may recognize these changes as they occur, maybe it’s hard to identify the root cause or what you can do about it. Talking to a therapist is vital; they can help you understand what’s going on, identify the source of your issues, and guide you in resolving them.
Finding a good fit – male vs. female therapists
When it comes to therapists, it’s always a good idea to go with someone you trust.
Choosing a therapist is like choosing a roommate. It’s someone that you’ll be getting to know and spending time with, so if you have the opportunity to choose who you work with, use it.
When it comes to the gender of your therapist, there are a variety of reasons you may have a preference. Maybe you’d feel more comfortable talking about personal or intimate topics with a male therapist, who can relate to or share your experiences.
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with men seeing female therapists. You may find it easier to open up, as you don’t share the same experiences of gender stereotypes and roles. Based on your own experiences and preferences, working with a female therapist could be less intimidating.
At the end of the day, the most important thing for choosing a counselor is finding someone you feel comfortable with.
Therapeutic approaches for men
Existential therapy: Existential therapy is a form of talk therapy that attempts to clarify our true nature, the source of our suffering. It teaches us to face our fears and looks for alternative ways of coping with life’s difficulties. The goal of existential therapy isn’t to eliminate suffering but to manage it to live happy, fulfilling lives.
Interpersonal therapy: Interpersonal therapy (IPT) focuses on the current relational context in which problems arise. IPT aims to help you communicate better with others and address problems that contribute to depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, amongst many other conditions. Symptoms of a mental health condition can result from a variety of factors and often follow a significant change in your life. Such changes or “adjustments” fall into one of four categories:
- adjustment difficulties, often associated with life changes like moves, job loss, etc.
- a change in roles, the start or end of a relationship, or diagnosis of an illness
- role dispute, a struggle in a relationship
- the interpersonal deficit, the absence of a significant life event
Gestalt therapy: Gestalt therapy is a holistic approach to psychotherapy that emphasizes the interconnectedness of a client’s environment, behavior, thoughts, and feelings. Gestalt therapy sessions don’t follow specific guidelines. Instead, therapists use creativity in their approaches, depending on context and personality.
Regardless of the approach, therapists and counselors can help you realize that you’re not alone in your reluctance to opening up and talking about your feelings.
Remember, therapy isn’t a one size fits all plan.
Your therapist will help you develop goals and outline a plan to meet them. What’s more, studies have shown that your rapport with your therapist is way more important than the specific technique or approach utilized.
You may need as few as two to three sessions, while others choose to go continuously. If something doesn’t feel right, or you have concerns, your therapist should want to work with you in addressing them. Remember, it’s a collaborative process.
If you don’t feel an immediate connection with the first therapist you try, don’t give up just yet. If we’re comparing finding an excellent therapist to a roommate, it’s like being surprised that the guy you found on craigslist isn’t all you expected him to be. It takes time, so don’t get discouraged. While it may feel awkward at first, once you make that connection with the right therapist, you’ll realize the value of going.
How you ask for help doesn’t matter. It just matters that you do.
Going to therapy doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. Regardless of whether you’re struggling with a mental illness or going through a rough patch- remember that you’re not alone, nor are you a burden, and reaching out won’t make you weak.
Are you looking for a therapist in Charlotte, NC? Our team of licensed professional counselors is here to help. Still not sure who the best therapist is for you? No problem. Reach out today and let us play therapist matchmaker for you.